Some Thoughts on Sarah

I’ve listened to the new Sarah McLachlan record several times in the last forty-eight hours. In that time I have also read a number of reviews, some of them glowing, some of them not so glowing. Many of the negative reviews compare this new album with Sarah’s 90s masterpiece, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. It’s an unfair comparison and I’d like to take a moment to tell you why.

Too often, we, as music fans, come to expect our favorite artists to repeat their greatest successes again and again. If you’re in your twenties now, chances are your favorite band or artist has already recorded their greatest record. Anything they have done since and anything they will do from this point forward will simply pale in comparison. We need to accept that.

Afterglow is not Fumbling Towards Ecstasy but we shouldn’t look for it to be. We should evaluate each record on its own merits. If we later decide to analyze where the piece fits in to the artist’s canon, then that’s fine. We shouldn’t let that diminish the value of each individual work.

For me, Afterglow is a gorgeous record that I can listen to again and again. That’s the primary thing I look for from a Sarah record. It’s well-produced, well-written musically, and if it doesn’t have the sad lyrical introspection of Fumbling it’s because she’s not writing in the same space. She’s writing about different things and different feelings and for me, at least, it works.

Yes, it’s a slightly “poppier” record but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. She’s figured out how to write good songs that are catchy. I loathe the fact that some people consider this a sin. We expect these artists to go back after a major success and be weird for the sake of being weird, just to regain their indie cred? Fuck that, I say. Let them write the things that they want to write.

From top to bottom, I really enjoy the record. It’s been far too long since Sarah’s voice has graced the scene. I’m happy she’s back.

And, if you’re not a fan, don’t worry. With the way this Godawful industry works she won’t be back for long. She’ll put out two singles and no one will pay attention but the hardcore fans and those of us rapidly slipping out of the only demographic that matters and then she’ll tour and disappear for five more years. That’s just the way it goes.